Cool Binary Clock Uses Old-School LEDs And A Fancy Graphic PCB

Ah, the 5mm LED. Once a popular choice, they’ve been supplanted in modernity by smaller SMD components and/or more capable RGB parts in recent years. However, they’re still able to do the job and are a great way to give your project that proper homebrew look. [Ian Dunn] chose those very parts to produce his 4017 Decade Binary Clock.

The clock uses only digital logic ICs to tell the time – there are no microcontrollers here! After four or five iterations over almost a whole year, [Ian] was finally able to coax the circuit into reliable operation. As you’d expect, it relies on a 32.768 kHz crystal to provide a stable clock. Fed into a 4060 binary ripple counter, that clock is divided down 14 times to deliver a 2Hz square wave. This then goes through a 4027 flip flop to get the desired 1Hz signal. From there, a bunch of extra logic handles counting the seconds, minutes, and hours, and resetting the counters as appropriate.

The PCB that houses the project is printed on directly by a flatbed inkjet printer, which [Ian] purchased when inspired by our previous article on how to get your PCBs made at the mall. He didn’t actually use it to make the PCB in this case, but the flatbed printer does a great job of putting graphics on the board.

The result is quite an attractive look that might surprise a few electronics enthusiasts who haven’t seen a graphic printed board before. It’s a technique we think could be used to great effect on conference badges, too. If you’ve experimented with similar techniques, be sure to drop us a line!

Time Bandit Clock Hits The Aesthetic Jackpot

When was the last time you looked forward to looking at a clock? Not to find out the time per se — like gee, maybe it’s beer o’ clock already — but waited with bated breath to gaze upon a particular clock? Never? We don’t blame you, but only because you haven’t seen this fruit machine clock in action yet.

Every 60 seconds, the reels start spinning like some little man inside pulled the lever on a slot machine (or fruit machine, as they’re called across the pond). The reels slow down and stop one by one, left to right, settling on the four digits of time in 24-hour mode. Imagine the suspense of coming to see what time it is just as the reels start spinning!

[timebanditclock] grew this fruit machine out of old-school discrete logic beautifully applied to stripboard. Each of the reels has a DIY binary encoder that uses IR transmit/receive pairs to generate a binary word. These four binary words are compared to a binary clock module using comparators.

We think this is an amazing concept already, but then [timebanditclock] worked overtime by doing it all in discrete logic. Spin past the break to see a demo and stick around for the build video.

Want a challenging clock build that’s a little less challenging? Maybe it’s time to try circuit sculpture.

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Passing The Time By Reading The Time

Binary clocks are a great way to confuse your non-technical peers when they ask the time from you — not that knowing about the binary system would magically give you quick reading skills of one yourself. In that case, they’re quite a nice little puzzle, and even a good alternative to the quarantine clocks we’ve come across a lot recently, since you can simply choose not to bother trying to figure out the exact time. But with enough training, you’ll eventually get the hang of it, and you might be in need for a new temporal challenge. Well, time to level up then, and the Cryptic Wall Clock built by [tomatoskins] will definitely keep you busy with that.

Example of the clock showing 08:44:47
Diagram of the clock showing 08:44:47

If you happen to be familiar with the Mengenlehreuhr in Berlin, this one here uses the same concept, but is built in a circular shape, giving it more of a natural clock look. And if you’re not familiar with the Mengenlehreuhr (a word so nice, we had to write it twice), the way [tomatoskins]’ clock works is to construct the time in 24-hour format by lighting up several sections in the five LED rings surrounding a center dot.

Starting from the innermost ring, each section of the rings represent intervals of 5h, 1h, 5m, 1m, and 2s, with 4, 4, 11, 4, and 29 sections per ring respectively. The center dot simply adds an additional second. The idea is to multiply each lit up section by the interval it represents, and add the time together that way. So if each ring has exactly one section lit up, the time is 06:06:02 without the dot, and 06:06:03 with the dot — but you will find some more elaborate examples in his detailed write-up.

This straightforward and yet delightfully unintuitive concept will definitely keep you scratching your head a bit, though you can always go weirder with the Roman numerals palm tree clock for example. But don’t worry, [tomatoskins] has also a more classic, nonetheless fascinating approach in his repertoire.

City Clock Is Beautiful Tribute To Parisian Architecture

Binary clocks are often created as a programming exercise, or to display the time in a project with the minimal practical components. Displaying the time in binary needn’t always be for practicalities sake, however. The City Clock shows that it can be applied quite artfully, too.

The electronic side of things is simple – an Arduino Nano runs 13 LEDs, with a digital IO pin for each. Including a real time clock module is optional, though we imagine pretty essential if you wish the clock to keep accurate time. The LEDs are fitted into a grid, which is fitted behind the windowed facade of the building. This helps block light leaks between adjacent segments, giving a more polished look to the final design. The whole assembly is built out of lasercut wood, making it a quick and easy build if you’ve got such a tool handy.

It’s a simple concept, but one that is particularly striking in action. Even to those unaware of its horological abilities, it presents the appearance of a living building, with inhabitants switching lights on and off throughout the day. It would make an excellent bookshelf or coffee table piece, and we’re highly tempted to give building our own a go. Video after the break.

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Keeping Time With Blinkenlights

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that hackers like weird clocks, and they love packing as many multicolored LEDs into a device as is humanly possible. Combine both of those concepts into one project, and you’ve got a perfect storm. So as far as unnecessarily complex timepieces go, we’d say the “Crazy Clock 4” built by [Fearless Night] ranks up there among the all-time greats.

This Arduino Pro Mini powered clock syncs the current time via GPS, with a temperature compensated DS3231 RTC to keep it on the straight and narrow between satellite downlinks. Once the clock has the correct time, how do you read it? Well, at the top you’ve got a basic numerical readout for the normies, and next to that there’s a circular LED display that looks like it could double as a sci-fi movie prop. On the lower level there’s a binary clock for the real show-offs, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s even dual color-coded analog meters to show the hours and minutes.

[Fearless Night] has provided everything you need to follow along at home, from the Arduino source code to the 3D models of the case and Gerber files for the custom PCB. Personally we think just the top half of the clock would be more than sufficient for our timekeeping needs. If nothing else it should help save some energy, as the clock currently pulls an incredible 20 watts with all those LEDs firing off.

Should you decide to take a walk down memory lane and check out some of the other interesting LED clocks we’ve featured in the past, you’d be busy for quite awhile. But for our money, it’s still hard to beat the impossibly obtuse single-LED clock.

A BCD Clock For Your Desk

We see so many clocks here at Hackaday, and among those we see our fair share of binary clocks. But to see one that at first sight looks as though it might be a commercial product when it is in fact a one-off project is something special. That’s just what [Tobi4sDE] has done though, with his desktop BCD binary LED clock.

The front panel is a black PCB on which sit the LEDs that form the binary display, and its back holds an ATMega328P microcontroller and DS3231 real-time clock. A smart desktop case is 3D-printed, and while the clock is USB-powered it features a CR2032 coin cell as a backup to hold the time while the USB is disconnected.

Unexpectedly he’s used a mini USB socket rather than the expected micro USB, but the rest of the clock is one we’d probably all have on our desks given the chance. We’d even go so far as to say we’d have this one as a kit if it were available.

Of course, regular readers will notice that this isn’t the only high-standard BCD timepiece you’ll have seen recently, though the other one was a wristwatch.

Driftwood Binary Clock Is No Hollow Achievement

It’s about time we had another awesome clock post around here. [Mattaw] has liked binary clocks since he was 0 and decided to make one in stunning fashion by using driftwood, nature’s drillable, fillable enclosure.

That beautiful wiring job on the RGB LEDs was done in 18g copper. To keep the LEDs aligned during soldering, he drilled a a grid of holes just deep enough to hold ’em face down. There’s an IR remote to set the time, the color, and choice of alarm file, which is currently set to modem_sound.mp3.

Under the wood, there are a pair of Arduino Nanos, an mp3 decoder board, and an RTC module. Why two Nanos, you ask? Well, the IR interrupts kept, uh, interrupting the LED timing. The remote feature was non-negotiable, so [mattaw] dedicated one Nano to receive remote commands, which it streams serially to the other. Here’s another nice touch: there’s an LDR in one of the nooks or crannies that monitors ambient light so the LEDs are never too bright. Don’t wait another second to check it out—we’ve got 10 videos of it after the break.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first binary clock we’ve seen.  This honey of a clock uses RGB LEDs to tell the time analog style.

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